Increasingly teachers are utilizing a variety of online tools to help facilitate learning in their classrooms. While the dominant platform in our college remains OneNote most of our teachers utilise a variety of other tools including Quizlet, Kahoot, Moodle, OneDrive, eTV, YouTube and ClickView. While it can be advantageous to use a variety of tools, it does have the potential to lead to a disjointed experience as multiple logins, URLs and passwords can be difficult for students to manage. A second aspect that must be managed is the NZQA requirement regarding the digitization of Internally Assessed work. In recent years we have used moodle for any online assessment handin, but with our declining use of Moodle in classrooms, we have recently decided to investigate alternate solutions. This has led to us actively investigate the potential of Microsoft Teams.
Teams is described by Microsoft as the hub for teamwork in Office 365 that integrates all the people, content, and tools your team needs to be more engaged and effective. In a classroom situation Teams gives a teacher the ability to organise the digital aspects of their classroom.
One teacher currently investigating the possibility of using Teams in her classroom is Mrs Nicola Richards. Mrs Richards is part of our Physical Education and Health department, and she is currently trialing the use of Teams with her Year 13 Physical Education class. Setting up the team was managed through the creation of a Group within SharePoint, a process that we will eventually automate, through our Active Directory.
Mrs Richards’ class currently utilises a wide range of digital resources each week such as Listly, My Study Series, Scoopit and her OneNote Class NoteBook. An obvious initial benefit of the new Team is the ability to have all such resources centralised and visible for students.
The initial setup was intuitive and one of the first features that Mrs Richards utilised was the class OneDrive that Teams generates. This makes available to students a range of files which previously would have been either emailed, or distributed through the class notebook. Whilst these two methods are perhaps appropriate in the initial weeks of the year, as time passes the organisation of such files can become increasingly problematic for students and staff. A dedicated OneDrive for each Team is a great feature.
As described above, the ability to distribute, manage and collect student work using the Assignment feature was one of our initial reasons for testing Teams. By running a small-scale trial allowing students the chance to have a low stakes attempt at using this feature, students’ potential anxiety levels were reduced. Mrs Richards instructed her class to hand in a written paragraph, in preparation for a hand-in of an internally assessed piece of work a few days later. Anecdotal feedback was that students found it really easy to upload the work in the required format, and it was particularly easy for them to find the feedback provided to them by the teacher.
The management implications of online assignment hand-in can be an intimidating prospect for some staff; particularly a reluctance to mark student work onscreen. Mrs Richards acknowledges these concerns, and is sympathetic to them. However she found that marking from a teachers point of view was logical and she particularly liked the fact that she should type feedback separately or within the document.
From the students perspective, there were very few barriers to their enrollment in a team, and many students appreciated the easy of access to feedback. The success of this, largely informal, trial is reflected in the fact that over 50% chose to hand-in their final internal work using Teams.
Having conducted this small-scale trial with Teams, Mrs Richards now identifies the need to continue to embed Teams as the initial landing the point for students each lesson, whilst continuing to utilise the main benefits of the platform.
In the coming school holiday break our IT support team will automatically generate a Team for every class in our Secondary School. This will allow our trial of Microsoft Teams to gather momentum, and I am looking forward to investigating and learning how a variety of staff see the benefit of bringing together their digital resources.
Since 2012 the StAC IT team had been led by Mr Sam McNeill. His resignation, to take up a role as a Senior Education Specialist at Microsoft, meant that our team needed a new leader. I am very excited to introduce Mr Dave Hart as that leader. He will become a contributor to this Blog as he continues the transformational progress begun by Sam, as our team continues the College’s commitment to ensuring both staff and students are equipped to maximise the opportunities presented by technology.
The interview below introduces Mr Hart and his role.
Dave, can you give an outline of your previous roles/experiences?
I have been working in ICT for over twenty years, and predominately within education in the UK. I started out in programming before moving to support and ultimately management and department head. My last ten years in the UK were spent at the University of Oxford, most recently as IT Director of Oriel, Corpus Christi and Merton colleges.
Although I greatly enjoyed my time at the university, I emigrated permanently from the UK to New Zealand in October 2015 for a new personal and professional challenge. The latter came about quickly when I took up the position of Senior Project Manager at CPIT (now Ara Institute of Canterbury). The former challenge came earlier when I had to convince my wife that we should sell our house, quit our jobs, pull our three daughters out of school and move to the other side of the world (not to mention shipping our dog out too)! Happily, my family and I are very comfortable with the decision we made to emigrate and we love living and working in Christchurch. Our dog has also yet to lodge a complaint.
What are the main aspects/responsibilities of your new job at StAC?
Before I joined, I was keenly aware of the College’s reputation as a leader in the area of the effective and transformational use of technology in New Zealand education. To ensure that this reputation continues, a key element of my role will be to focus on looking externally and observing best practice and new technologies that will allow for the continued shaping of a progressive and innovative vision for StAC.
As you might expect, the role also includes oversight of the school ICT network and infrastructure, ensuring that it is fully operational and fit for purpose now and in the future, maximising benefits to staff and students. To assist me in this, I am in the fortunate position in that I have inherited an extremely capable and customer focussed team. This provides a wonderful platform upon which teachers, support staff and students can be assisted to use ICT successfully.
What are the main aspects of your role that you are most looking forward to?
From my very first visit to StAC I was struck by the feeling of community. This is very much reminiscent of my days in Oxford colleges and I feel fortunate to be part of something similar here at StAC. Those years at Oxford taught me to expect that every day at work to be different from the last and they would quite often not pan out at all as planned. That variety is something I greatly enjoy and I am already getting to relish that same experience here.
I am looking forward to building relationships with others in all parts of StAC and beyond to ensure that we continue to use ICT as a tool to enable teaching and learning in an efficient and fruitful manner.
Other than technology and education, what are your main interests?
I am a family man first and foremost, so my main interests tend to be my daughters’ interests! When time permits, I am keen spectator and occasional participant in a number of sports, but mostly these days can only get out for an occasional forest or beach run, or a round of golf. I hoping to increase the frequency of my running over the coming year to the point that I can attempt some reasonable distances, however I am making no firm commitments at this stage!
Here at StAC we are excited to have Dave leading our team, and the experience and ideas that he will bring.
The interview below introduces Mr Dekkers and his role.
Wilj, can you give an outline of your previous roles/experiences?
I began teaching 19 years ago in a bilingual school in Mangere. My interest with technology in education was quickly picked up on by the school principal who had me draw up plans to cable the old school buildings and network their Acorn computers.
From there the technology advanced and I became a teacher, network administrator and tech support in a new Apple school in Manurewa, eventually becoming an ICT facilitator working with a cluster of schools across Auckland where I worked with school Heads, teachers and students.
I returned to the classroom in 2003, teaching and running various departments in the United Kingdom until my wife and I returned to New Zealand towards the end of 2013.
I began teaching in the Preparatory School here at St Andrew’s College with the responsibility of eLearning Co-ordinator added to my main function as a Year 6 classroom practitioner.
Over the past three years my use and combination of technology to enhance and promote learning continued develop and I was fortunate to be selected as one of five Microsoft Innovative Educators to be sent to Budapest, Hungary for the annual E2 education conference.
What are the main aspects/responsibilities of your new role at StAC?
My new role in the College is as Head of Innovation and Information Services. I will be running programmes and projects with students and teachers that involve everything from coding, robotics and 3D printing through to helping collegians use technology more effectively within their learning programmes.
What are the main aspects of your role that you are most looking forward to?
2017 will be an exciting time. With the new challenge of also running the Secondary Library I am looking forward to working with the team to redevelop the space into a modern library technology centre. This redefined learning space will become the venue for testing new technology before introducing them into the classroom, various coding and robotics programmes and will also be a variable learning classroom for Science and other departments to book as required.
The core library function will be enhanced with a more modern look with the library staff role altering to work more closely alongside subject teachers to support the curation of resources and to teach the effective use of information literacy skills.
Other than technology and education, what are your main interests?
Aside from my teaching and learning role with technology I also thoroughly enjoy running the Preparatory School Football programme. Each Wednesday I am out on the Prep School field with 60 players ranging in age from 5 to 10 and in the winter months I have the pleasure of coordinating the Under 9 to 13 teams. The last three years have seen football number continue to increase with the sport becoming very popular with both boys and girls.
It’s great to welcome Wilj more formally into our team, and it is exciting to hear of the developments he will be implementing. Wilj will become an occasional contributor to this blog so check back to hear of his progress!
This week I had the privilege to sit down with Ms Francesca Eathorne, Head of Communications at St Andrew’s College and hear first-hand the details about the new StAC Social Hub which is powered by Shuttlerock. This is a new digital channel that not only automatically collates content from various social media platforms and aggregates them, but also allows users to directly submit rich media content for moderation and publication.
While the content is mostly submitted from three key community groups – students, parents and Old Collegians – Social Hub is a StAC-owned media platform, meaning that once the content is published it can’t be removed if the original post is removed or account closed. This ability, along with powerful moderation tools, provides St Andrew’s with a significant amount of control over content retention and posting.
Ms Eathorne first learnt about the Shuttlerock platform more than two years ago via an existing StAC connection and immediately saw the potential for a greater sense of community participation with media content, particularly in the lead up to the College’s Centenary celebrations in 2017. The ability for user generated content was powerful and her research showed interesting developments in the owned-media space. Part of the communications’ strategy at St Andrew’s is to always innovate and be prepared to lead in the education space.
Like other social media platforms, you can share, comment on and ‘like’ content; however, it can also be used for competitions where users provide their own content, which boosts engagement.
Shuttlerock offers advert placement throughout the platform that is useful promoting events and competitions such as the above.
Recently the College ran a successful competition offering free return tickets from anywhere in the world for an Old Collegian to return home to join the Centenary Gala Weekend celebrations, 17-19 March 2017. The StAC community was encouraged to post their photos of Old Cols and nominate them to win the tickets, which were generously sponsored by Emirates and House of Travel Merivale.
Eighty-nine entries were received from around the world and the winner was Thomas Moore (OC 2009), who is currently living in the UK. Tom’s older brother Luke nominated him and so winning was a complete surprise to Tom. The competition saw lots of positive conversations on social media as Old Cols shared the posts and nominated their friends.
A sample of the many submissions to Social Hun as part of the “Bring an Old Col Home” competition run in conjunction with the Centenary celebrations.
Marketing Co-ordinator Ms Georgia Harvey who administrates Social Hub says,
“The ability to aggregate content from multiple social media sites to one ‘Social Hub’ is what sets it apart from other platforms. It allows for an easy upload process, with content automatically filtering through for review and publication to Social Hub direct from the creator of the content. This means content such as videos and photos are unique and genuine, and reduces significantly the resource required to otherwise source the same level of content.”
The ability to moderate content is essential within a school environment where some students have restricted use of their image, particularly in the online space. Shuttlerock easily allows this moderation and StAC’s policy is to ‘approve’ all content for publication.
The Social Hub was launched to coincide with the College’s 100 years centenary celebrations
The extensive customisation of Shuttlerock’s core product for the StAC Social Hub took longer than originally anticipated due to the complexity of the requirements of the College, including ‘boards within boards’, resulting in the deployment of an almost bespoke setup perfectly designed for maximum functionality and impact.
Ms Eathorne says,
“Shuttlerock continue to evolve as a company and we have been really impressed with the way they have learnt from our custom site build and how they are offering us solutions to continue to effectively manage the platform. We are currently rolling out a new website and the integration of our Social Hub streams into the website will keep content dynamic and fresh and really reduce workload for the team”.
The custom Social Hub icon developed by StAC staff
To further customise the experience, a unique social media icon was designed by the College’s in-house design team, and a decision was made to name the platform the StAC Social Hub, rather than refer to it simply as Shuttlerock. According to the team at Shuttlerock, StAC is the first customer worldwide to brand the platform with a custom name and social media icon, reflecting the College’s commitment to innovation and branding.
The content on Social Hub is collated into six main ‘boards’ as follows:
Within each board are sub-boards, similar to categories, such as the Sports board which showcases content from College sports events as diverse as the annual Athletics Day to staff teams competing in the Wanaka Multisport Challenge:
A selection of sub-boards within the main Sports board
It is this highly visual navigation system that is one of the strengths of Social Hub. Users are funnelled into areas of interest and then within those they can view photos and video content submitted either directly to Social Hub, or automatically collated from various social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram through the use of designated hashtags such as #StAClife and #StAC100, the latter hashtag ties into Centenary content. It is precisely this ability to source user generated content from other social media platforms that allows for a variety of strategies depending on the targeted community group, for example:
Students: competitions for submissions of the best photo from an event, such as the 2016 Athletics Day. While a prize of a $50 voucher is up for grabs, this is a great strategy to connect students with the primary College branding as well. Students are now used to posting content on Social Hub and recently senior students approached the Communications team to see if they could run a ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ day competition using Social Hub.
Parents: one of the primary aims of Social Hub is to enable parents to easily share photos they’re taking of College events either through the use of hashtags or having parents directly submit to Social Hub. This worked really well with Winter Tournament Week this year where a lot of photos were received that normally the Communications team would never have had access to. It also helped to build a sense of excitement as students were competing all around New Zealand, plus a link to photos was included in the end of week newsletter ensuring that even more of the community could engage with the event and successes.
Old Collegians: are specifically targeted for photos from their time at StAC with this content being segregated into decade boards, allowing Old Cols to immediately find the most relevant content for them.
Old Collegians’ Co-ordinator Ms Kate Baker notes
“Social hub has been a great platform to allow two-way engagement between the College and our alumni. We can easily showcase images from the latest alumni events, campus developments, or even historic images so our alumni remain engaged with the College. The Social Hub enables our alumni to be contributors too, via Instagram, Twitter or email upload (appealing to a variety of demographics) they can share their own images and memories. Not only does this allow our content to expand, but it creates a sense of authenticity and supports our alumni to be active in their ongoing relationship with the College, which is really important in the lead up to our Centenary”.
The #staclife board is a great place to showcase the culture and general happenings at the College and is perfect for all those photos that don’t make it into the formal College publications or get profiled on the Facebook pages.
A screenshot of the #StAClife board with images submitted directly but also via social media using the #StAClife hashtag
Shuttlerock are getting global press too, recently winning a prestigious award with Facebook. Shuttlerock’s Executive Director Mr Paul Bingham says
Mr Hitesh Pratap from Shuttlerock with the Facebook award outside Strowan House
“Shuttlerock received the Facebook Global Innovation award for creativity; a real honour for a tech start up out of Christchurch. The award recognised Shuttlerock’s unique approach of collecting user generated content and allowing an organisation to use it effectively.”
“St Andrew’s has taken the lead in using the platform to collect a range of authentic photos and publish them on owned digital assets including the StAC website. In today’s online environment, the website is the only space a brand can truly own, and it’s where key decisions are made by customers. Its vital to keep authentic and up to date content as a core part of the user experience”.
St Andrew’s College has 12,000 Old Collegians, 1000 current families and 1450 students, all who have varying interests and needs within the social media space.
Ms Eathorne concludes,
“Our content simultaneously celebrates the diversity of events our community participates in and allows people to share their experiences. I anticipate it will take around 18 months to build a strong sense of engagement and for people to become really familiar with all the platform has to offer”.
Secondary School – overview of technology and current activity
Two concepts come to mind when contemplating Technology and its significance within education. Firstly, once hailed as the Holy Grail for its innovation within the communication field, Technological innovation increasingly holds the auspicious role of ‘global saviour’ when engineered by socially conscious citizens. Experts argue that we are now living in the age of the Anthropocene – the proposed epoch when humanity has irrevocably altered the planet’s geology and ecosystems. Can the youth of today, who will live in a world where the ‘internet of things’, ‘bio- wearables’ and ‘blockchain’ technology are the norm, turn our influence around and steer our global impact in a new direction towards a more sustainable future aided by innovative technology?
Marie Pellin, 2014
Secondly, technology (characterised by exponential growth) surely needs to be influenced by socially conscious citizens as eluded to above. For example, exponential growth of internet technology may be tempered by our socially aware youth favouring net neutrality. Equally so, it appears that technology is forcing companies to be better global citizens. “In the age of internet transparency, it seems corporates no longer have anywhere to hide – a spot of corporate social responsibility (CSR) whitewashing is not going to cut it anymore” (Lawson, 2016).
At St Andrew’s College we are aiming for continuous improvement as far as opportunities for ‘technology enablement’ and development of ‘computational thinking’ are concerned. Well-supported by our Technology Department’s academic expertise and our ICT Division (headed by Director, Sam McNeill, and e- Learning Integrator, Tom Adams) the additional support we offer GATE students includes: Coding Club, Neuroscience Learning Module with participation in the Australasian Brain Bee Competition for Year 11 students, Forensic Science and Astrophysics Learning Modules, Passion Projects where students have the opportunity to complete coding-based projects, online participation in the New Zealand Diplomacy Competition, attendance at University of Canterbury public lectures, such as the recent Black Hole lecture, meetings with University of Canterbury lecturers and access to technology-based opportunities and events such as the recent Singularity University workshop.
Students taking part in the Neuroscience module
Future strategies for 2017 include: offering Geographic Information Systems modules as part of the Year 9 and 10 Academic Extension and Enrichment (ACEE) Programmes, development of the Coding Club supported by Tech tutors drawn from industry, introduction of a comprehensive robotics programme to bridge our Preparatory School’s excellent programme, facilitation and guidance for students wishing to apply for the NASA Space School, potential visits to Auckland’s Stardome Observatory and/or the Mt John Observatory, online tech learning opportunities such as edX and Coursera [the top specialisations in Coursera are all technology-based], facilitation of Orion’s Evolocity Competition, and the establishment of further connections with Christchurch’s Innovation Precinct as part of the Christchurch Tech Sector Strategy [2015-2025]. In addition we will continue to punctuate our GATE calendar with further ‘SMAC’ opportunities for intellectual growth and sharing of minds such as expanding the classroom via e-meetings.
The St Andrew’s College Secondary School GATE programme has integrated Technology as a learning area with Philosophy, Sustainability and increasingly, Global Citizenship. Continue reading →
Earlier this year I had the privilege of attending my first ever TeachMeet and it just so happened to be in Melbourne at Ivanhoe Grammar School. If you’re unsure of what a TeachMeet actually is, you can find more at the website http://www.teachmeet.co.nz but in short:
A TeachMeet is an organised but informal meeting (in the style of an unconference) for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology.
Participants volunteer (via the TeachMeet website) to demonstrate good practice they’ve delivered over the past year, or discuss a product that enhances classroom practice.
With the themes of this year’s Christchurch Educators Month being “connect, innovate and collaborate” I felt that a summary blog on how TeachMeet Christchurch has gone would be appropriate.
I recognised that teachers are very busy people and wanted to keep the commitment levels to TeachMeet pretty low – a once per term meeting that ran for no more than 90mins and in true keeping with the spirit of TeachMeets, each presentation could be no longer than 7 minutes. To facilitate the launch I arranged to host first two sessions at St Andrew’s College where I was confident I could drum up some speakers and also a crowd of listeners and then used an open Google Doc for people to register. You can see the topics and attendees for TeachMeet 0.1 and TeachMeet 0.2.
I was delighted with the turnout for these events and the quality of the presentations from the speakers. Many shared something from a technology / eLearning perspective however the format allows for any educational topic to be shared. Importantly, and in keeping with the theme of connecting, the events were split in half to allow a time for networking with other teachers over a coffee.
Mr Wilj Dekkers from St Andrew’s College presenting at TeachMeet 0.1
As always at events like this, there was good sharing on Twitter of what was being presented via the hashtag #TMChch and you can see a twitter recap for TeachMeet 0.1 and TeachMeet 0.2
A montage of photos from an earlier TeachMeet in 2016
I am pleased that Jeremy Cumming (former teacher at Catholic Cathedral College and now working for the Catholic Education Office) asked to pick up the organisation and hosting of TeachMeet 0.3 that will run on 17th November and be hosted at Villa Maria College. This represents a natural progression and maturing of TeachMeet by sharing the hosting and co-ordinating responsibilities amongst teachers and schools which will naturally shape the themes and focus of each session. Ultimately, this is key for the ongoing success of TeachMeet – to be sustainable there needs to be collective responsibilities and a desire amongst teachers to want to connect with each other and share best practice from their classroom, things they are experimenting with, or research they are undertaking in post-graduate studies.
When teachers maintain a mind-set of being lifelong learners then I believe a natural outworking of this is wanting to connect at various sessions like TeachMeet and others that are routinely organised by the teaching community in wider Canterbury.
If you have never been to a TeachMeet before, can I encourage you to consider signing up at www.teachmeet.co.nz for TeachMeet 0.3 which will be the last for 2016, but hopefully just one in a long line of many more where teachers can remain connected
It’s browser based – you can access it from “anywhere” and see live data. You can also bookmark certain reports in your browser for near instant access.
There is also an app available (iPhone/iPad/Android/Windows10) so the data is accessible anytime / anywhere
We can tweak reports / visuals quickly and easily, based off feedback from stakeholders
Being browser based, you don’t need a local file on your computer that is “out of date” once a new version with improved features is built. What you see is always the “latest version”
It’s part of our existing Office365 Suite, so our existing username/password logs you into the reports.
Security permissions are centrally managed based off AD users and role based groups, including use SQL Row Level Security.
It connects to our on-premise MS-SQL Server, allowing for scheduled data updates (hourly / daily).
Throughout the duration of Term 3 the team have been focused on delivering a new set of reports for Mr Dean McKenzie one of the Assistant Principal’s at the College with responsibilities for Data Analysis. He had provided some concept designs for how he would like to see the reports look, along with the location of the majority of the data in our Student Management System (Synergetic). Additionally, there had been changes to how the Grade Credit Average (GCA) was going to be calculated moving forward, which would see individual subject’s have a GCA calculated for the first time along with more rigid definitions of how various credits would be counted.
All of this logic had to be encoded into the ETL process that transferred the raw data from Synergetic’s MS-SQL database and into our Data Warehouse, automatically calculating the results on a daily basis and making them available to staff via the web interface of PowerBI. The end result is the following pages in a single report:
Subject GCAs Per Student:
Showing the results for a student in the current year and the previous year (click to enlarge)
This report is designed to allow a teacher to quickly select a student in their class and compare their GCA subject by subject, along with seeing how they performed the previous year. If you click the left hand image above to enlarge you will see numbers which represent:
A selector for the current or previous year of GCA data for a student
The teacher code (for full time classroom teachers this is automatically locked to their username meaning they only see the students in their classes. For Academic Deans or managers, they can see across a wider set of students).
A year level filter, allowing a teacher to quickly narrow the selection of students down by the year level e.g. their Yr12 Maths students or Yr13 History students.
The list of students arranged alphabetically that are taught by the teacher in the year level they have selected. Note these are colour coded pink/blue to give a visual cue to the teacher if they are looking for a male/female student in their class.
A table showing each subject taken by the selected student, and their GCA (either current year or previous year depending on selection in #1 above)
A bar graph visually displaying the same data as #5 but designed to quickly identify subjects of particular strength or weakness for the selected student. Note that the subjects are listed alphabetically and not by highest GCA to lowest, allowing for a “cityscape” effect.
The name of the current student that is selected and the class code of the teacher who is browsing the report (useful if a teacher happens to teach a student a number of different classes).
The aim of this report is to allow a classroom teacher to quickly scan through the students in their class and identify their relative strengths/weaknesses in different subjects. It also enables them to answer a common question of teachers “I’ve a student who I think is underperforming in my class – how are they doing in other classes?”
GCA – Then and Now:
This report allows a teacher to quickly see the individual students in their class ranked by GCA from highest to lowest and compare the current year GCA in the teacher’s subject with the student’s overall GCA from the previous year. This allows a teacher, at a glance, to see who are their best performing students based off completed assessment but to also pick up if there is significant variance between previous and current performance.
In the above example, the top bar graph shows the 4th ranked student in the class (in pink) was actually the 6th ranked student (relative to the class) the previous year. Whilst this is a very small sample size, what this can show is a student who is possibly underperforming or showing improved performance relative to the students in their class – all helpful information for a teacher to consider.
The red numbers in the report are:
Showing the classes taught by the logged in teacher. Note that this also includes co-curricular options that the teacher coaches/manages, allowing them to review academic performance for all students that they have contact time with (this was actually the #1 request we had from teachers after launching the Tutor Quadrant Dashboard earlier this year – the ability to see results for students in all areas of their involvement at school).
A gender score card. This is simply showing the number of males / females in the class.
Bar graph (ranked) showing students by GCA, highest to lowest for the subject taught by the teacher and in the current year.
Bar graph (ranked) showing the same students but their previous year GCA across all subjects, again ranked highest to lowest.
A table giving a break down of the students in the class and their GCA in individual subjects. This is helpful if a teacher wanted to compare how a student was doing in a similar subject e.g. an English teacher seeing if a student was performing comparably in other literacy intensive subjects such as History.
This was perhaps one of the most complex and ambitious pages to put together as it was potentially combining academic data from Yr9 Entrance Testing, PAT results (Yr9-10), MidYis Results (Yr9-11) and NCEA data by GCA. Additionally, this needed to give a break down of priority learners based on identified learning needs as well as ethnicity.
The real challenge was thrown down by Mr McKenzie when he said in an ideal world he would like a teacher to be able to select from any of the historical data and have it displayed on the same graph. We explored a wide range of ideas on how we could best implement this vision and in the end the following is what was achieved:
Showing the results for a Yr13 Calculus class; on the left is the students’ Yr9 English Entrance testing and on the right their Yr13 Calculus GCA (click to enlarge)
Visually, there is a lot going on in this report and it will take the user quite some time to fully understand how best to extract what they are looking for. For this reason, all pages on these reports have user guides in text boxes and we have labelled each selection field numerically in the order that a teacher should select their data. This helps guide them through the process. In the left hand screenshot above (click to enlarge) I have added red numbers to highlight features of this report:
The academic “score type” and “sub-score type” the teacher is wanting to see. If a teacher chose Yr9 PAT then the sub-score type would automatically display what options were available (i.e. English, Maths and Vocabulary). Similarly, if a teacher chose GCA as the score type they could choose the GCA for whatever subject they wished to check. The recent addition of search boxes from PowerBI make this process far easier to manage when there is a lot of options to choose from.
Priority Learners – this is still being developed, but for now it highlights any students with data recorded in Synergetic, from diagnosis through to strategies to use in the classroom to support their learning.
Ethnicity breakdown for the students in the class displayed in a pie chart and table below, along with the names of Māori and Pasifika students in the two boxes in the bottom right of the report.
The bar chart that shows the students ranked by whichever score type the teacher has selected. Note that there are no axes on this graph, a necessary requirement given the academic data does not always share identical measures/scores. However, by placing the cursor over a student you can easily see their score e.g. a stanine for a PAT test, or a 2 decimal place GCA score for NCEA results. Additionally, there are visual cues on this graph that further help identify students with listed learning support needs or who identify as Māori or Pasifika.
A reminder that all of this data refreshes automatically each night so the teacher is always seeing the latest information on their students. Should a student leave/join the class the data is refreshed to reflect this.
NCEA Results Analysis By Standard:
One of the most requested features by the Senior Leadership Group and Heads of Department at St Andrew’s is an easy way to compare, standard by standard, how our students and teachers went compared to similar schools around New Zealand (similar schools has been defined as Decile 8-10). One of the challenges has been getting access to neatly formatted data that contains all NCEA standards, not just individual results which could be downloaded from the NZQA website.
After working with NZQA’s statistics team, we have been able to obtain this data and run it through our ETL process into the data warehouse, thus allowing this comparison to be easily done by classroom teachers:
Again, a classroom teacher would select a class they teach, and then narrow it down to a NCEA standard they wished to compare by following the numerical work flow selections on the left hand side of report. Once completed, this presents the four horizontal bar charts that show:
Top left = All students being compared, the top bar is comparative schools nationally (all students who sat this NCEA standard in Decile 8-10 schools). The middle bar is the performance of the St Andrew’s cohort, in this case all other Yr12 history students taught by all teachers. The bottom bar is the performance of the students in this teacher’s class.
Bottom left = Performance of Māori/Pasifika students (again broken down by national data, cohort and individual classroom teacher).
Top right = male students.
Bottom right = female students.
The results for these standards can be filtered to show either internal assessments only or formative assessment results for not-yet-sat external exams, providing students with a comparative score with the national data for that external standard from the previous year. This could work as a motivator for them before their external exams.
The red numbers in the screenshot are:
Search box for the teacher to select the class code they want to analyze (again, searching is making this really easy), There are two pre-selected options visible which are the previous year’s national data and the StAC cohort data. A teacher could, in theory, turn these off if they simply want to display only their own class results and not compare them.
Once a class is selected, this table automatically shows only standards that have a result recorded in the Synergetic database. This helps a teacher know which standard number to search for.
Using the knowledge above, the teacher searches for the standard they want to analyse e.g. “HIST2” would show all Level 2 history standards allowing a teacher to quickly click through their results.
The comparative graphs (as explained above). One of the neat features of this is if a teacher wanted to drill down and see which students in their class gained a certain result, they need only click the result and the list of students in the table filters immediately:
By clicking the silver “merit” grade in the bottom right graph (females) the table down the bottom filters to show the name of the student(s), allowing a teacher to quickly search through student names by result.
Detailed NCEA Results By Standard:
This final report is another one that is designed to quickly profile the range of ability of the students a teacher sees. However, it also delivers on one of the other most common requests from teachers e.g “I want to know how my Level 3 Geography students did in Level 2 Geography at the start of the year / or an internal assessment so I can better differentiate the teaching to meet their needs.” To date, we have struggled to graphically display a ranked past/present comparison tool for teachers and the security relationships is actually quite complex (just because you’re teaching the student for Level 3 Geography, for instance, does not mean you were their Level 2 Geography teacher).
This has now been displayed in the following reports:
Showing the results for a Yr13 Geography class internal assessment 3.3 (91428) on the left; on the right is the students’ performance from the previous year for the internal assessment 2.3 (91242). (click to enlarge)
These reports contain a number of visual cues. In keeping with all our NCEA reporting in PowerBI, the colour coding is consistent: Gold = Excellence; Silver = Merit; Bronze = Achievement; Red = Not Achieved. Additionally, the bars are varied in height and ranked highest to lowest allowing a teacher to very quickly pick up the grade spread of their class at a glance. The red numbers in the screenshot on the left (click to enlarge) are:
The teacher selects the NCEA standard they wish to analyse
They select which of their classes they wish to filter by (many of our senior teachers teach two of the same year level/subject so this is helpful). The list of classes is pre-populated automatically, based on the username the teacher signs in as making this a very simple process.
The bar chart orders the students by result, highest to lowest (as explained above).
As evidenced above, a huge amount of work and effort has gone into these reports and they certainly represent the progression of thought over the last few years in terms of what is the key data we need to be able to provide to classroom teachers. A key objective of this analytics project at St Andrew’s is to provide easy access to the data for teachers on an “anytime, anywhere” basis and for it to be easily comprehensible.
As more teachers start to use these reports on a regular basis I anticipate feedback will flow and new feature requests will emerge. The beauty of the setup currently is we can release this version of reporting to teachers and then easily add new features which will become automatically available to teachers next time they log in – there is no need to update or install new files for the teacher. To further support teachers, we are now embedding a “Tour of the Dashboard” video into the landing page of each new report:
One of the great things about being browser based is the ability to embed third party content, in this case a YouTube video explaining to teachers how they can use this new report.
These embedded videos mean that should teachers forget how to use the report, or are new to the College, they can essentially “self-train” on how they can use the report with their classes.
I am genuinely excited about this level of reporting and the benefits it will have not just for our teachers, but for our students too!
Three computer whiz kids in Year 8 are acting as technology mentors for the entire Preparatory School student body, and even quite a few teachers. Caleb, Cameron and Mitchell run twice weekly Fountain of Knowledge technology training sessions, with students able to book appointments on a sophisticated website set up by Caleb. “I took over the project from its founder Ward (now Year 10) when I was in Year 6. We have seven mentors including the three of us, and are training up some Year 6 students so they can run the sessions next year,” says Caleb.
The students help with everything from setting up the internet on laptops, phones and tablets, to installing anti-virus software, and helping students to get the most out of OneNote. They also teach students how to use the cameras and other equipment in the TV studio. Their teacher Ms Melissa Rennell says she sometimes has teachers knocking on her door seeking technical help from one of the boys, or asking for assistance with their Activboards. “They often go to these students first before the ICT Department.” Caleb has even rebuilt an old laptop from the Preparatory School and connected it up to an active board on which students can share their projects.
As they get ready to hand over the Fountain of Knowledge at the end of the year, Caleb, Cameron and Mitchell are thinking about which equally enthusiastic young technology experts they will pick as its new leaders, and are already training Year 6 student Nicholas. “We’re proud of the programme and have had a lot of support from Mr Dekkers, who will be the teacher in charge of it again next year,” says Caleb.
Cameron says he enjoys technology but isn’t planning on a career in the field at this stage. However Caleb and Mitchell hope to one day own their own technology companies, “like Apple, or Google”.
Note: this is quite a lengthy and, at times, technical post about configuring and deploying Minecraft in a school when choosing not to use the new Microsoft Education Edition. The following is the structure of the blog if you want to jump to a particular point of interest:
The Background Situation: existing Minecraft usage and identified problems.
The Opportunity: what we felt we needed to deliver to run our own Minecraft server securely and easily.
The Technical Setup:
Client Installation & Deployment
Where To From Here:
Minecraft, the hugely popular game with students of all ages, is described as:
A game about placing blocks and going on adventures. Explore randomly generated worlds and build amazing things from the simplest of homes to the grandest of castles.
Despite this initial success there has always been some problems with administering Minecraft, particularly around easily and securely allowing student interaction and collaboration in these virtual worlds. To date, teachers have had to rely on students using the Minecraft Personal Edition meaning it was essentially single player mode only, removing the ability to collectively work on a project together. To promote greater student engagement and allow the key competencies to be fully utilized in learning through Minecraft, alternatives needed to be identified.
In late September 2014, Microsoft purchased Minecraft for $2.5billion which held out the possibility of a deeper integration into Office365 and Microsoft’s wider Education strategies. It took just under two years before Minecraft Education version was released, during which time an alternative Minecraft Edu was essentially shut down and absorbed into Microsoft’s new Education version. This was a shame as the Edu version was very good, allowing the use of numerous custom mods (modifications to improve/customise the game play) and it could be run on a hosted server, not just on the student’s personal device.
There was no ability to host the game on a stand alone server – now it would be installed and hosted via the teacher’s laptop computer (this raised significant security concerns for us and ultimately was a show stopper).
There was no custom mod support whatsoever. Over time, it was the ability to modify and customise the game play that had contributed to the enduring appeal of Minecraft and without this, the default game play was less appealing.
The upside, however, was that licensing was incredibly easy to manage and, if you were prepared to overlook security concerns, deployment for a teacher in a basic network would also be simplified.
An example of students using Minecraft Pocket Edition in previous years
After the initial disappointment of realising we would not deploy Minecraft Education as soon it was released, Mr Wilj Dekkers engaged in a number of discussions with myself and Mr Joshua Harrison from the St Andrew’s College ICT Services Team to explore how we might progress forward with Minecraft. Very quickly, some key features were identified:
Teacher Control: teachers would need the ability to easily manage students within the game. Without this, the chances of students running amok and getting into mischief was very real. This would require third party mods to achieve and a strategic plan around how Digital Citizenship teaching could be included into the Minecraft worlds.
The Minecraft server needed to be hosted centrally so that it could be controlled by the ICT services team, whilst still allowing the delegation of in-game management to teachers and to those students identified as leaders who could be student administrators.
Teacher/Student administrators needed the ability to maintain / deploy approved mods and perform low level administration work e.g. restarting worlds, creating/deploying new worlds.
Finally, the issue of how to deploy a pre-configured client onto student BYOD devices in a quick and simple manner, without disrupting any existing installations of Minecraft they may have already installed.
The above list of requirements needed addressing if we were going to be able to build a sustainable environment for integrating Minecraft into the eLearning strategies at the College. Joshua decided he would explore various options based on his prior knowledge administering various Minecraft servers in his own time and see if there could be some suitable solutions to use at St Andrew’s.
For the proof of concept, we decided to use an existing HP Compaq 6000 that was spare. The specifications of this machine were pretty light weight, having only a Core2 Duo CPU and 4GB of RAM. It remains to be seen if this will be sufficient and we anticipate needing to increase the resources of this machine as more users and worlds join.
After exploring various different versions of Minecraft, Joshua settled on 1.7.10 1.10.2 (this version is required to be compatible with Sponge. The earlier version was needed for supporting Bukkit which we are no longer using – see below). To support the deployment of these mods, two frameworks were necessary:
Bukkit This has been replaced with Sponge due to a potential copyright issue; this has resulted in dropping KCauldron as well.
These are essentially APIs that allow other mods to run on the Minecraft server and normally a Minecraft administrator would use only one or the other of Forge or Bukkit. However, as will be seen, it was necessary to use both and to achieve this an additional third party tool called KCauldron was necessary to enable the use of different mods on the same platform to work nicely together. With the use of Sponge, there is no need for third party tools like KCauldron, as Sponge integrates directly into Forge.
Minecraft Server Dashboard
Another important tool was MC Dashboard which allowed Joshua to use a graphical user interface (GUI) rather than a traditional command line interface (CLI) to administer the Minecraft server. This tool provides easy oversight into server resource usage, connected users and other important information.
As mentioned earlier, it is really the mods that create the key appeal of Minecraft in schools, as it allows for customisation of the worlds and gameplay and, sadly, was something that Microsoft chose to remove from their Education edition. It’s easy to see why, however, because mods are also one of the trickier components and can easily lead to problems of version compatibility and contribute to a poor user experience. There are three key mods that Joshua has deployed for the StAC Minecraft server:
Multiverse: Project Worlds:(Project Worlds replaces Multiverse due to the changes above relating to Bukkit – everything following remains the same) This is a key one as it allows us to run parallel worlds on the same server, whilst enabling teachers and/or students to jump between worlds at will. Put practically, a teacher could create a world for a collaborative social studies project where students need to work towards an assessment or project, whilst having a separate world for “free play” and experimentation. Without Multiverse, projects would need to be separated spatially within the same world which would inevitably lead to problems, such as having to walk a long way to go from one project to another – it all takes time!
PermissionsEX:PermissionManager:(PermissionManager replaces PermissionsEX due to the changes above relating to Bukkit – everything following remains the same) This mod allows for differing levels of user permissions groups, and the following four were setup for school usage:
Student – a basic user who can only do the default game play such as build/place etc
Student Administrator – have slightly elevated controls such as the ability to move other student users around, freeze them and do other temporary modifications. These permissions are designed to support a Digital Citizenship component where students can be educated and entrusted to self-manage as much as possible within the game. The assigned permissions here were carefully selected by Joshua to prevent a student who had prior knowledge of how Minecraft administration works from being able to execute any command.
Teacher – has access to most of the Minecraft server administration, can create new worlds, can kill off users, teleport users between worlds and other main administration functions.
Administrator – aimed at superusers and, at this stage, reserved for ICT staff to support the server installation as necessary.
ICY Admin:The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod(This was used to replace ICY Admin due to the version change of Minecraft) This is the key mod to bring the above together into a user-friendly GUI allowing for in-game administration from a graphical menu for the above user groups. The available menu options in ICY Admin The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod have been built from scratch by Joshua and are controlled by a config file on the Minecraft server itself. Users access the menu system during game play by hitting the tilde key (~) and this replaces the need to execute console / CLI commands within the game. This makes it significantly easier for new users to engage with the game and reduces the barrier-to-entry for teachers who may wish to administrate but know none of the commands.
Some of the controls available via ICY Admin The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod include things such as “freeze” a user/all users in place (useful if you effectively want to pause the game for a break), teleportation of a single user / all users to a shared starting point or, for example, if you wanted them all to be in the same place to work on the same project. Additionally, environmental settings can be controlled in this way e.g. make it rain or snow, or set it to always be night time.
The control interface for teachers and student-admins when using The Minecraft Macro/Keybind Mod (which replaced ICY Admin)
These three core mods are what allows the overall setup and administration and, through conversations with Mr Dekkers, are probably sufficient to enable most scenarios of how Minecraft might be used at this stage. Two in-game mods specifically requested by Mr Dekkers were IndustrialCraft and ComputerCraft both of which allow for significant learning opportunities. IndustrialCraft supports things like electricity generation and storage through batteries and transferring into different parts of the game, whilst ComputerCraft is essentially a full programming language accessible by computers in the game.
Client Installation & Deployment:
Windows installation batch script
With the setup of the Minecraft server achieved, the final part of the solution was how to easily deploy this to the individual student BYOD laptops. St Andrew’s College has a choice within parameters for BYOD, meaning students can bring either a Windows 10 laptop or an Apple MacBook running OS X.
It was important that there was an easy, stress-free way for teachers and students to install this version of Minecraft onto laptops that did not necessarily need to involve the ICT Services helpdesk team at the College. Joshua was pretty confident he would be able to write some batch scripts for Windows and I suggested he check out OS X’s Automator as a way of scripting installation for the MacBooks. Interestingly, he found that he was able to script the installation on MacBooks with Automator in about half the time it took to write a batch file for Windows.
The tasks in the Automator script to install onto a MacBook running OS X
The key to making this happen was Minecraft MultiMC, an open source launcher for Minecraft that allows users to run completely separate installations of Minecraft with ease, meaning that we could confidently encourage students to install this version without affecting any other installation of Minecraft they may already have on their laptop.
Essentially, a student is provided with a USB key that has an installer launcher that copies MultiMC and a Java installation into a new folder, whilst setting up short cuts in their Applications folder so they can run the game.
Interestingly, Joshua opted to not include a copy of the Minecraft client application itself within this installer file, instead relying on students having to enter their own Minecraft credentials (linked with their personal paid licensed copy) which would then trigger the download of the client application of Minecraft. This way, we are not distributing any commercial software illegally and the download only adds 1-2minutes to the overall installation process. The key benefit, however, was that MultiMC is already configured to point the installation to the College’s on-premise Minecraft server meaning there was no additional configuration required for students. Additionally, Joshua set this up to run on a non-standard port so that if other students were using Minecraft at school they could not accidentally connect to the school’s Minecraft server and become a nuisance.
All up, it takes less than 5 minutes for a student to install this version of Minecraft from a USB key provided by the teacher.
Where To From Here?
I am always really happy when members of the ICT Services Team have an opportunity to use their prior experience or personal interests to contribute to the teaching and learning at the College in ways like this. It is one of the unique things about delivering ICT in schools compared to other environments and the ability to be involved in this way is enjoyed by the staff. Talking with Joshua he admitted to being a bit worried about how to deliver what needed to be a very simple solution that could be managed by students and teachers whilst still being secure and stable:
I had a huge sense of personal satisfaction with the finished solution because I was a bit worried about how I would be able to deliver all of this at the start, or even if it was possible. Ultimately, it was ICY Admin that made it all possible and this was something I found only through researching for this project. It’s nice to know that the hundreds of hours I’ve spent administering Minecraft servers in my own time have paid off and could be used in an educational context.
Mr Joshua Harrison
For me, it is pleasing to know that we have a secure, robust and extensible platform which teachers will be able to use relatively painlessly thanks to the efforts of Joshua in this area. It remains to be seen what interesting curriculum uses arise from this and I’ll certainly be posting a followup blog highlighting this.
Of course, as Microsoft continue to develop their Augmented Reality HoloLens solutions, then perhaps the future of Minecraft will be 3D as this video shows: